Pick Me!

A weblog by Laura Moncur


Cyberbullying: Is “Don’t Feed The Trolls” the Best Philosophy?

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 10:33 am

I just got another rude and disrespectful comment on one of our weblogs:

Before the Kathy Sierra incident, I would have just deleted the comment. No discussion. Nothing. I would have just deleted it and let it rot unread in my “Fan Mail” folder. It’s part of the “Don’t Feed the Trolls” philosophy that we have run under since about 1990 when we ran a BBS from a second line in our small apartment. They are our websites. I delete any comment that I don’t particularly like. I have been pretty ruthless about it, actually.

The thing is, I don’t really know if that method of dealing with trolls is the best. I really don’t. Sure, it gets rid of the trolls. They just go troll somewhere else, but it gives the rest of the world the impression that we don’t have trolls. Only I see them. So, when a new blogger starts dealing with the same problems as we have since 1990, she feels alone in the world. She thinks that Laura Moncur is beloved and no one would dare call her names, disagree with her in a disrespectful manner or threaten to kill her because she included a quotation that compared Jesus to Santa Claus in The Quotations Page.

The thing is, I PREFER deleting trolls. I get a certain feeling of revenge at taking away their voice. I don’t want to argue with them because they are obviously too stupid to understand or too blind to see another’s point of view. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t have posted in the manner that they did.

Deleting trolls makes other people forget they exist, though. It doesn’t actually remove them from the system. It just makes them invisible to everyone but me.

Is YOYOW (You Own Your Own Words) better? Is it better to just let the words hang there? Is it better to let others attack them for the hateful language? Is it better to just leave the comments as they come in?

I don’t know. All I know is I don’t want to see hateful and disrespectful comments on anything I own. That’s why I’m tempted to just delete them. It’s like graffiti. Do you leave it on your fence? Some people consider it art. It sure is a lot easier to leave the graffiti on the fence than to paint over it day after day after day when it keeps showing up every morning.

Another issue, however, is my constant deleting of trolls somehow creating an implied contract? If something I would normally consider disrespectful stays on one of my websites, does that imply that I agree with it? I have deleted so many comments in the past, but what if I don’t delete one? Does that mean I’m liable for what someone else posts on my websites? God, I hope not. How many times have disrespectful comments slipped through my fingers because of an email glitch or a weblog glitch or some other mysterious glitch in the system? I KNOW of one that slipped past me, but are there others?

So, I left a rude comment on The Gadgets Page. It sits there accusing me of being a pussy, a dolt, and a faggot. It implies that my entry about video games is reason enough for Islamic extremists to decide to attack me in my backyard. It’s not a death threat. It’s not the worst I’ve received, but it’s still there. Even now, I want to go back and just delete it.

I’m in cognitive dissonance about the whole thing and I don’t know what to do.

I’ll probably delete the comment, my response and even this entry. Silence has been our response for so long that I’m uncomfortable at the sound of my voice…

Update 2:09 pm: Well, that didn’t work… The whole thing devolved into a shouting match. I deleted all the comments (even my response) and closed comments on that entry.

Don’t Feed the Trolls wins, I guess…



  1. I’m lucky enough to not get many, if any at all, bad comments. I guess that’s because I don’t have much of an audience. ;) Sometimes it’s good to not be known.

    Comment by Susan — 4/4/2007 @ 11:04 am

  2. You should probably delete all 3 of those comments – including mine :) Culling garbage like that is good because it makes a site more enjoyable. I hate reading comments on sites that are full of vitriolic hatred and stupidity. Wipe’em out.

    Comment by Phil801 — 4/4/2007 @ 11:23 am

  3. I like your strategy and I love the phrase you have for it: “Don’t feed the trolls.”

    I think that is the best way to stay safe and keep the internet safe for others. I really do.

    For community responsibilty, I appreciate this post- to let other’s know that they are not alone.

    Putting energy into negative comments only increases them though. “Don’t feed the trolls.” Good life advice.

    Comment by Braidwood — 4/4/2007 @ 1:13 pm

  4. Funny how free speech and criminal activity wound up doing the tango. I have always advocated leaving all comments up, for the same reason I loathe PC. Yes it goes against free speech, but in my mind, the bigger problem (as you pointed out) is nobody knows where our biggest problems are or how bad things really are. As for controlling the obvious problem trolls present, I have come around to and age old solution. Shunning. I went one step further though on this issue in my most recent post:

    Why is a telephone any different from a computer when criminal activity occurs?

    Comment by reverend gisher — 4/4/2007 @ 1:36 pm

  5. you made the right decision, i’ve read of this discussion at feminist blogs that have been hammered by over active males. they closed the comments and put walls up.. as they should.. bullying is too common and i thought your point on gaming being realistic was right on.. keep up the good work, you are getting closer to the candy lady. (blog) that is. may the world be a better place, b

    Comment by Brian d — 4/4/2007 @ 10:01 pm

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